A Model for Responding to Domestic and Family Violence

Northside Baptist Church shares their six-year journey to better recognising and responding to Domestic and Family Violence within faith communities and Christian churches. Northside Baptist is part of a unique community-wide project to respond to and reduce Domestic and Family Violence. Read their story of how this project came about.

In 2017, Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson released a series of articles focused on domestic abuse in faith communities, including Christian churches. For many of us, it was the first time we’d needed to confront the extent of this reality in our own church communities — which is an incredibly sad admission that it has taken so long!

We’d certainly encountered incidents of domestic abuse in our churches, but many of us didn’t yet fully understand the insidious reality of coercive control or the harm that our processes — or lack thereof — or even our doctrines and theology were producing.

At Northside Baptist, we felt that we had two options: we could take a defensive position (and try to argue the statistics), or we could listen deeply to the stories of both victim-survivors and those working with them in order to better understand the situation and our best next steps. We decided to go with the latter.

We reached out to Julia Baird, who generously agreed to host a panel of experts for an event in September 2017 called Time to Listen. This was followed up in May 2018 with a second event (also graciously hosted by Julia) called Time to Act.

It was around 2017 that Common Grace also released the Safer resource, which was the first time (that we were aware of) that such high quality and extensive resources regarding domestic abuse and churches had been complied.

From this foundation, we started working on our own internal processes, and also looking outward into our community.

In regards to our internal processes, we’ve been working on upskilling ourselves as a pastoral team (including becoming trauma-aware), building policies and processes around how people who are experiencing domestic abuse can feel safe to disclose this to trusted people (and how we can best support them), and working towards ensuring we are not just noticing unhealthy relationships but also promoting and supporting healthy relationships at every level. Much of this is thanks to an incredible team of wise and caring volunteers who are leading us in this area!

In regards to our local community, we are acutely aware that, as a church, we don’t have high levels of trust in the general community in this area. As such, we’ve been working at building connections and trust with local people and services to work towards wholeness in our community.

Coming out of a number of conversations, we helped form what has become the Crows Nest Safe Village Project, bringing together local services, organisations, Councils, and churches with the aim of better recognising, responding to, and reducing Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) in our community. The Crows Nest Safe Village Project was born out of a desire to see a suburb-wide response to DFV and the committee includes representatives from the Lower North Shore Domestic Violence Network, the Lower North Shore Child & Family Interagency, The Lower North Shore Multicultural Interagency, Crows Nest Centre, North Sydney Council, Willoughby City Council, Relationships Australia, Mary’s House Services, and Northside Baptist Church.

We have now been able to host a number of events at our local community centre, with speakers like Jess Hill helping us better understand domestic abuse and coercive control, and also to build healthy relationships at every level. We’ve been able to host training for some local businesses (starting with hairdressers) to better understand domestic abuse and how to respond helpfully if and when customers disclose abuse (directing them to excellent local services). And we’re also seeking to bring together local churches and other faith communities to help ensure we respond so much better to instances of abuse in our congregations, to promote and support healthy relationships, and to be far more trauma aware (including in our preaching).

We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but we are so thankful for those who have helped lead us along this path. We want to — and we need to — do so much better.

Julia Baird hosting a panel of experts for an event at Northside Baptist Church in September 2017 called Time to Listen.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence please seek help. The following Domestic and Family Violence support services are available:

1800 RESPECT National Helpline: 1800 737 732 (specific 24hr hotline for DFV)
Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114

For more information about Common Grace’s SAFER go to: https://www.saferresource.org.au/ 

To help support Common Grace get this resource into the hands of more church leaders please donate to www.commongrace.org.au/donate

Domestic & Family Violence